Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sun-Sentinel Reviews "Zero Hour."

Even though I know I needed this time here to finish writing out the score of the cantata, and a few other musical things I haven't talked about yet, it's been driving me out of my mind to not be with Jim, watching what's going on with the play.

He says the houses have been full to overflowing and very enthusiastic. There was a talkback for a group from a synagogue this past weekend. Jim went back to change, and the rest of the audience was told they didn't have to stay. When Jim came back on stage, he was stunned to find that almost every person in the packed theatre stayed, riveted to their seats.

What most people don't realize, going into the play, is that it's a serious character study about a real man who was mostly known as a comedian. But that doesn't mean it's not funny. Jim is the master of the unexpected punchline, but Zero wasn't a panderer. He was a tough cookie who had his own loud and aggressive sense of humor, and he didn't slow down for people who didn't get it.

It's fun reading this new review because it was the great actor and friend of Zero Mostel, Theodore Bikel, who described Jim's performance by thanking Jim for "bringing back a volcano we thought had long gone extinct." This critic, Bill Herschman, begins his review in the Sun-Sentinel by going right there.

Career of Zero Mostel recreated in one-man show

By Bill Hirschman

10:17 PM EDT, June 29, 2008

A volcano explodes nightly in the Broward Stage Door theater, spewing flame and lava over the audience without benefit of special effects.

Early on, Jim Brochu incarnates the wit, volatility and sensitivity of Zero Mostel in the biographicalZero Hour. But Brochu becomes a force of nature at the end of the first act as Mostel rages at the obscene damage inflicted by the 1950s blacklist...

As both playwright and actor, Brochu has nailed the essence of this difficult but brilliant chameleon who could be tender and terrifying, playful and combative, all in the space a few seconds. He captures --- if not photographically reproduces -- the righteously angry Mostel who rants and rails with razor-barbed wit, a profligately improvisational mind, an endlessly malleable face and a dancer's grace in an elephant's body.

Yet in the second act, he rivets the audience with quietly intense stories about how his career almost ended with a crippling bus accident or how he had difficulty opening in Fiddler because its plotline echoed his own parents disowning him for marrying outside the faith.

Unlike Gabe Kaplan's lackluster Groucho on the same stage, Brochu not only has Mostel's mountainous frame, his beady eyes, puffy beard and slicked back hair, but he has mastered Mostel's cadences and intonations.

With an eye on Broadway next season (don't they always), Brochu has been working on this show since 2006 with director Piper Laurie (yes, that Piper Laurie).

... Brochu and Mostel are terrific company.

Bill Hirschman can be reached at

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